Let The Polarization Begin!

Posted in IndyCar on November 20, 2017 by Oilpressure

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By now, I’m sure most of you have heard about Friday’s big news – that Danica Patrick will close out her racing career at the 2018 Indianapolis 500. This will be the second of two farewell races for Danica – the other being the 2018 Daytona 500 in February. Both of these races represent the finest moments for Patrick in each series. In NASCAR, she won the pole for the 2013 Daytona 500 and finished eighth. Her career in the Indianapolis 500 is much more impressive. In seven starts between 2005 and 2011, she had six Top-Ten finishes – which included a fourth-place finish as a rookie in 2005 and a third place finish in 2009.

Not only did Danica Patrick finish fourth as a rookie in 2005, she also led nineteen laps late in the race before being passed by eventual winner Dan Wheldon on Lap 194, as she was forced to slow down in order to conserve fuel. Still, it was a very impressive feat for a rookie.

Before going any further, let me get a few things out of the way. I am not opposed to women in racing. In fact, I strongly support women in racing and wish there were more. I think my constant support and ringing endorsements for Sarah Fisher, Pippa Mann and Simona de Silvestro on this site over the years should be evidence to that. I cheered loudly at the 1992 Indianapolis 500, when Lyn St. James hung in there on a crash-filled day and appeared to finish in the Top-Ten, only to have the results changed after the race to reflect her in eleventh. I also publicly supported Katherine Legge on this site when she got the shaft from Jay Penske at Dragon Racing.

I would also like to make it clear that I am not a Danica-hater. I don’t think there is much denying that Danica Patrick is a very polarizing figure. This weekend has already proven that. Most fans either love her or love to hate her. There is very little in-between when it comes to Danica-mania. Unlike most, I’ve been mostly ambivalent towards Danica Patrick. I never got all caught up with her being a somewhat successful IndyCar driver; nor did I begrudge her because she got more attention than almost any other driver in the paddock when she was here. She didn’t seek it out. The attention came to her.

I’ve maintained this site for almost nine years. In that time I’ve written over 1,600 posts. I’ll bet I’ve made less than a handful of disparaging comments about Danica Patrick in that time, but I’ve also praised her several times. So for anyone to infer that I am anti-Danica or a caveman that is opposed to any women in racing; that is about as far from the truth as you could get.

That is why I was so surprised at the reaction I got on Friday, when I made a seemingly benign comment on social media. As you can imagine, Facebook and Twitter exploded with the announcement that Danica Patrick would end her racing career by attempting to qualify for next year’s Indianapolis 500.

Late Friday afternoon, there was a comment on Twitter that Jim Ayello of The Indianapolis Star responded to. The comment said “She will struggle with the new car. She’s proved [sic] she can do very little with A LOT in her career”.

Ayello responded to this by defending Patrick saying “I don’t think that’s fair to say since we haven’t seen anyone drive in a competitive situation in the new car. And again, she has been excellent at Indy, so I very much disagree with you [sic] second statement”.

I responded to Ayello with a simple fact that implied no opinion – it was just a fact. I said “But she has never driven the DW12 in ANY configuration.” Cue the opening of the flood gates.

Through Friday might and into Saturday afternoon, I was bombarded with tweets from friends and strangers alike, that put words in my mouth and cast me in a very, um…unfavorable light. Based on the response, I even went back and looked at my original comment to see if I had said something I didn’t realize. No, it was just the cold fact that, unlike most drivers that will be in next year’s Indianapolis 500 – Danica Patrick has never turned a lap in the DW12. How dare I be as mean and insensitive, as to bring up an actual fact?

Our friend Pressdog (who is an admitted Danica lover) always says to never engage the crazies. This time, I didn’t think I was. I actually thought I was helping out.

I realized that Jim Ayello is young and is an admitted newbie when it comes to motor sports. He was in the early years as a Journalism major at the University of Missouri (Class of 2013), when Danica Patrick last drove in IndyCar, on that ill-fated day at Las Vegas in 2011. I wasn’t sure if he even knew that Danica had never driven the DW12, so I felt like that would be good information for him to know before taking such a defiant stance. Many drivers, including Dario Franchitti, had trouble adjusting to the DW12. I didn’t think it would be out of the realm of possibility that Danica might have trouble, since her last time in an IndyCar was in the Dallara IR-03 more than six years ago.

You would’ve thought I had said something similar to Bernie Ecclestone’s comment, when he compared women drivers to appliances.

When did it become an outrage to state a fact? Is this because Danica is a female driver? I certainly hope not. I thought we had evolved from the days of treating female drivers differently. If you’ll go back and check anything I’ve written about a female driver, I’ve always tried to shy away from comparisons to other female drivers. I consider female drivers to be drivers – nothing more, nothing less. If I were a female driver, that’s the only way I would want to be treated – not as a subset.

I will note that every single negative response I got was from men, and not women. But I got the idea from the men that I was being a bully for saying something negative about a female driver – regardless that it was a fact and not an opinion.

Are female drivers immune from criticism? If so, then we haven’t come as far as I thought we had.

To be honest, I do think that Danica will have some trouble adjusting to the new car – at least, at first. Why wouldn’t she? By the time she prepares for the Indianapolis 500, it will have been six and a half years since the last time she drove an open-wheel car – which from what I understand, is a completely different beast than the IR-03.

Someone suggested to me that Kurt Busch and Fernando Alonso had no trouble figuring the car out, so Danica shouldn’t either. Seriously? That’s your rationale? Busch and Alonso were former champions in their respective racing disciplines. Plus, I’ve heard that it may be easier for a driver to jump into the DW12 with no other IndyCar experience, than it is to unlearn everything you knew about the IR-03.

Personally, I hope that Danica gets a ride with Chip Ganassi at both of her farewell races, as has been rumored; and I hope that she performs well in both of them. I would also like to see her qualify well at Indianapolis. It would be a great storyline leading up to the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500. If she wins, which is quite possible – good for her! I’ll be very happy for her, and it would be historic. But if Josef Newgarden passes her on Lap 199 and wins the race, I hope that he will not be forever demonized, because he took the win away from her.

But along with a good storyline will come polarization. This won’t be like a good-natured college football rivalry over bragging rights. No, it will become bitter, divisive and personal – much like last year’s Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year selection.

My wife Susan has suggested that maybe I’m imagining things and no one was really that upset over the weekend. That could be true, but I don’t think so. It’s rare that something I say on Twitter gets that much play – especially when it’s just a fact and not an opinion.

Many will agree with what I’ve written today, while some will probably be outraged. That is not my intent. 99% of the comments on this site are rational and well thought-out arguments, even if they are on varying viewpoints. We have very civil disagreements on here, without the outrage. I just wish that we could get back to examining another viewpoint, instead of being offended by everything written that doesn’t quite coincide with our way of thinking. We probably won’t evolve that far by next May, so for now – let the polarization begin!

George Phillips

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Better Sooner Than Later

Posted in IndyCar on November 17, 2017 by Oilpressure

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This past Tuesday, I heard the news I had been dreading for the past few months. No, I’m not getting laid off from my job or anything like that. But being an IndyCar fan here in Music City, I knew that Tuesday’s news was likely.

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Don’t Squander This Golden Opportunity

Posted in IndyCar on November 15, 2017 by Oilpressure

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Believe it or not, we are one-third of the way through the offseason for the Verizon IndyCar series. That also means that two months have passed since Josef Newgarden was crowned as the new champion.

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A Question For My Engineering Friends

Posted in IndyCar on November 13, 2017 by Oilpressure

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We all know the story of the Pratt & Whitney STP-Paxton turbine car, affectionately known as Silent Sam, driven by Parnelli Jones that came within three laps of winning the 1967 Indianapolis 500 after dominating most of the month. It was a beast and although it qualified relatively poorly (sixth), it dominated on Race Day until an inexpensive bearing in the gearbox sidelined it on Lap 197.

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The Best Racing News Of The Fall

Posted in IndyCar on November 10, 2017 by Oilpressure

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This week we got some great news related to IndyCar. It wasn’t about the possibility of rookies getting more tires on a race weekend, nor were there any updates on the TV contract negotiations. No, this news hit much closer to home.

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Finally Living Up To Expectations

Posted in IndyCar on November 8, 2017 by Oilpressure

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Last week, Josef Newgarden confirmed what most of us strongly suspected – that he will be carrying the No.1 on his car for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season. The No.1 traditionally symbolizes the reigning champion from the previous season. There has been a recent caveat to that rule – that is, if you’re the reigning champion and your team isn’t Chip Ganassi Racing.

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Failing To See The Wonder

Posted in IndyCar on November 6, 2017 by Oilpressure

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This may turn a few people off. I don’t seek out controversy and I swear I’m not trying to do it here, but this is one time that my initial opinion is not in line with the vast majority of race fans. I will probably be proven wrong on this next season, and if I am – I’ll gladly swallow crow.

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